White people must hold each other accountable for racism

August 22, 2018 § 19 Comments

Adam Catzavelos is yet another example of blatant racism and complete disregard of the majority of people who are in the country he makes money and lives in. Below is his free and overly comfortable use of the the K-word.


Truth is there is no increase in incidents of racism. There has been an increase in cellphones and people with data. Racism is now brought to us by data. In the case of Adam, he must have felt very comfortable to send this video to someone he thought shared his views. One of the white people this video was sent to leaked it. I am guessing they were shocked by what they heard.

For the majority of their lives, racists have got away with their behaviour. Year in and year out. They have been rewarded by friends who agree with them.

Or if they do not agree, have remained silent, and as such racists continue to be emboldened about how right they are, and thus feel entitled to continue being racist.

Here is the problem, other white people who themselves might not be racist, have given consent through silence. And as Thomas More said in A Man for all Seasons, “Silence gives consent”.

It is the responsibility of every white person who purports to support the idea of non-racialism to police white racists. Why? Because those of us who have to encounter racism, are not there when racist ideas are incubated and allowed to grow. They grow in the privacy of whiteness.

Why is it that it almost exclusively takes a black person to report racism? The truth is, racists, do operate in a vacuum. They are given the impression that they have numerous people who agree with them because silence has given them consent.

When I moved to Johannesburg in 2006, the company I worked for put me up at B&B for a month until I found my place. I met middle-aged American white women who had been travelling the world. What they told me was how amazed they were by how readily racist they found white South Africans to be.

They said when white South Africans would tell them that if they happened to hit a black person while driving, they should keep driving because these ‘monkeys will kill you’. They were shocked and traumatised by the fact that perfect strangers assumed that they shared these racist views.

Later, I worked on an anti-racist advertising campaign and interviewed a white researcher who worked at the Institute for Race Relations in South Africa. What he told me was that white South Africans are the only people in the world who will openly express their racist attitudes to another white stranger, assuming that they too shared the same views.

I wrote an article a few years ago about a white friend of mine who had moved from Germany to South Africa to study; she told me that she was shocked by how racist Cape Town was. And how other white people assumed she shared their racist views too, just because she is white.

It’s your responsibility, not ours.

When the schools were opened to black people, I was the only black child in my class in primary school. I was in the classroom as the other kids. Our teacher could not be in class for that lesson for some reason. The class was well-behaved, as well-behaved as primary school kids can be without adult supervision.

One of the kids attempted to provoke me. I kept ignoring him. I had also recently read Alan Paton’s Cry The Beloved Country, a book my mother had forced me to read, and I couldn’t put down once I started reading.

Seeing that I was unmoved by his provocations, he took Tipp-Ex and painted a single white brush stroke on my black arm and said: “You think you’re white now hey?”

Again I ignored him. The other children in the class looked on, unsure what to do. I continued working, or pretending to be working while doing all I could to control what I could feel was going to be an uncontrollable outburst if I did not contain it. I was aware of my environment.

I was the only black kid. If I reacted physically, it would be the white class vs the black child.

He pointed again and said: “Look, he thinks he’s white!” gesturing to the other white kids. I ignored him. Then he said: “You think you’re white? Rub that off, kaffir!” It was at that point that I jumped and lunged towards him, I don’t know what happened, but I was held back and told not do anything to him.

I attempted to wrangle myself out of the many grips of white hands that held me back, hands with mouths that had said nothing the whole time I was being provoked. At this point, I was crying out of pure lonely black anger in a white class.

At one point, I felt my hand being grabbed by one of the boys, with tears streaming down my face (no Coldplay). He marched me out of the class and said: “Let’s go to Mr Prentis’ office.” That was the principal.

We walked out of the class. He had my hand the whole time, marching me, and I was following him, weak, angry and tired. I don’t even think I knew where I was being led.

I couldn’t believe that I was the one now who was in trouble. The young white hand gripped my black hand, and the white mouth said: “We are going to report him.” Then he walked right past Mr Prentis’ secretary and knocked on his door, and before a response could be made, he opened the door and pushed me in. The young white kid was Darren Lentz.

Mr Prentis looked puzzled, and his face immediately became sympathetic after seeing my teary-eyed face. He concluded the meeting he was having immediately and ushered me into his office. He asked me what was wrong. I responded between sobs – you know the sobs children make – between quickened and uncontrollable gasps for air while crying and wiping away tears. I told him that I had been called a kaffir. And I told him the boy’s name.

To hell with silent morality.

He immediately shouted: “Darren, go get that boy now!” Darren went to the class. They arrived together. Mr Prentis then said to the boy: “What did you call Khayalethu?”

“I didn’t call him anything, sir,” he said while looking down. Mr Prentis then looked at him again and said: “Are you telling me that Khayalethu is a liar?”

He responded and said, “No sir.”

Then Prentis looked at him and said: “Do you know what Portuguese are called when people want to demean them?”

He nodded.

“Would you like it if I asked Khayalethu to call you that?”

He shook his head; now he too was holding back tears.

After giving a lecture on racism, Mr Prentis looked at the both of us and told the boy to shake my hand. We extended hands and shook them. After that, we became good friends throughout primary school.

The point I am making with this story is that it took another white kid to stand up against racism. Not just silently, he did something about it there and then. He was not a silent moralist. Silent morality that does not act out nor speak out against injustice cancels itself out. To hell with silent morality in the face of injustice.

Mr Prentis could have easily said: “Well, let boys be boys. He meant nothing by it; it was just a joke. Take it, easy man.” But instead, he reminded him that he too could be demeaned unjustly.

The end of racism is in the hands of white people. These racists are allowed to spew their hate in front of other white people at first, who allow them to fester their hatred.

White people, hold each other accountable when it comes to racism.

This text first appeared in an article I wrote for News24 in 2016. The Darren story also appears in my new book, These Things Really Do Happen to Me, available from 1st September 2018. Times change, racism doesn’t.


§ 19 Responses to White people must hold each other accountable for racism

  • Bridget says:

    When Julius utters something totally unacceptable and incites violence, racism and murder….I don’t see the same protesting articles saying how unacceptable it is to incite There are still racists. There’s always going to be that goes for the world over. The rest of us want to focus on moving forward. What is absent from this article is the blatant racism the other way around and no apartheid can’t be an excuse from some of the words and actions that have come out of people’s mouths against whites. We all need to be accountable in stopping racism at all levels and from all South Africans

  • Nonhlanhla Ndumndum says:

    Beautiful article.. I appreciate how your story told my stories too. We have endured as black people & we continue to endure. It’s enough now.

  • Welile says:

    Silence give consent. Thank you Khaya looking forward to yo book

  • Sam Woulidge says:

    Thank you for this.

  • T says:

    I agree it should not be left unsaid. Black people can be racist too and the same should be expect of us… the enemy is is not alway black and white but good vs evil. The devil would like for us to think it’s balck against white.

  • Mase says:

    White people created racism, they must end it

  • Simone says:

    Thank you for this article. Being a recipient of racist comments and remarks is painful. I was once that within a coloured school…the far reaching impact of system we were exposed to was greater than we actually realise. It rears it’s head as you point out ‘because we have greater voice in social media’.

  • Paula says:

    Such a touching story… can’t wait to read your book.

  • Nonny says:

    this article is so interesting, I agree they should hold each other responsible. such people should be arrested

  • L. Mthethwa says:

    You know being a 90s baby having being also the only black kids in the area we lived in people wonder why I am not fond of white. It’s really bad to a point where ppl close to me have called me a black racist. Because clearly it’s so unusual to be black n not have a liking for white people.

    But I share your sentiments about how whites should stand up n stop this. As a child I had a friend I grew up with who constantly told my sis n I that her dad was racist n she wasn’t. N as a kid I didn’t get this but growing up in that neighborhood n having other kids tease n call you a Kaffir I realized that these are teachings from home. I can share stories n stories that made despise them or being acquainted with them n it’s not even about the history wev been taught, it’s the reality that racism is sadly still a thing that white ppl pride themselves in.

    I remember once on a night our bk in university days a guy we knew only hung out with white guys, spoke through hz nose”your typical white guy trapped in a black body”. These kinda ppl piss the living hell out of me. I always feel like slapping them in the face bcz I just don’t get it. But anyways this guy had an altercation with a white guy n we all watched to see how this would unfold n like I had imagined. His white friends couldn’t stand up for him when these other guys threw racist remarks to him.

    At times I do feel we deserve these attacks because black ppl won’t stop seeking validation from whites.

  • Nolwazi says:

    I am sorry for what you went through Khaya. I am not sure which is worse, the overt or the covert kind of racism. The latter leaves you questioning yourself ‘am I’ or ‘did he’? It can leave psychological and emotional wounds yourself especially if the perpetrator is in a position of power and authority. What other overt proof do you have that you have been wronged? I’d prefer the Adam kind of racism – that can be dealt with, its the silent cancerous kind that is dangerous.

  • Itumeleng says:

    Hi Khaya
    I saw this video earlier and it hurt my heart not so much for myself as it did for my children and for the children of these racist whites. Our children go to school with children who come from very racist families, they go to school and they bully our kids and call them all sorts of disgusting names. My daughter came home the other day and said some child told her she looks like (human waste) I don’t want say the word because it is just so awful.
    But my heart breaks to know that small children who should be living in a completely different South Africa are being so horrible to other children. So heart breaking.

  • Sharon Keith says:

    Absolutely agree, Khaya. These casual racist rants are unacceptable at any level and there must be immediate and widespread condemnation and consequence.
    This makes me sad, angry and weary. We still have so far to go as decent human beings.

  • Lynne Kerr says:

    💯 percent. I have often called people out. In real life and in comments sections of articles where it is blatant & disgusting.. I am trolled, sworn at and generally bullied and ganged up on. The justification excuses are just appalling. Yet I know that the pain it causes to the person who is the target, is far worse. I think it needs to start in the home, where parents should teach their kids to speak out against it. Both my boys (now young adults), were put into schools where they were in the minority and taught respect for everyone. I am proud of the non racial people they have grown up to be. My one son recently defended a friend of his and got pounded for it. Fear rules people, sadly.. the only consolation is knowing that you did the right thing. Well done to the person who outed Adam the despicable, he needs to find a difference place to live and it’s not here in our beautiful country with ALL its beautiful people. Love your work 🙏🏼❤️

  • LJ says:

    I implore you to look at the blatant reverse racism in this country. Namely a political leader who publically incites hate speech, violence and encourages the MURDER of a minority racial population in this country.
    How does this man in this videos words compare to that of Julius Malema? I will stand up to a white racist, but will black people stand up to a black racist?
    His punishment is where our energy should be being focused.

  • Kay says:

    Wow that’s story cut deep. So true, the silent morality of whites does not douse the continual racist rants and projections. The sooner other whites express their non association the better.
    It’s actually real sad that no matter how many steps we take forward a single incident and expression like that of @AdamCatzavelos sets us back. I really hope incidents like these will enlighten us all to some degree. What’s color after all when our bodies are wired the same. Sad really💆🏽‍♂️

  • Wayne says:

    I’m putting my hand up. No longer will I be silent. This has to end. I as an individual did not start racism, I was also brainwashed but I will stand up because it’s not right and because I CAN make a difference. I pledge my support. This HAS to end.

  • Maja says:

    Thank you for writing this!! I wholeheartedly believe in what you are saying. Anyone who knows me well knows that if they utter a fascist word in my company they will not only get a mouthful but I will leave and our friendship will not continue. I can’t stand it when people are too scared to speak up about what it right! This country needs change and we are the ones who can enforce it.

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